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"The Battle of Midway," directed by John Ford, provides a relatively
brief account of the Japanese attack of American ships at Midway atoll.
The film is comprised mostly of authentic footage from the battle, with
dramatic narration by Henry Fonda. "Behind every cloud, there may be an
enemy," he intones as American fighter pilots search the sky. The rest
of the film mocks Emporer Tojo of Japan and portrays him as ruthless,
bombing hospitals and churches as he tries to conquer the Pacific.
This movie is part of the collection: Cinemocracy
Producer: John Ford
Audio/Visual: sound, color
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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Subject: Time Goes By
Having served on Midway Island as Communication Officer of the NAVALCOMMUNICATION UNIT MIDWAY ISLAND from 1965-1966, I found this movie both fascinating and accurate. It is a great movie and a record of Americas heroic role in the region.
Subject: Four stars for Cmdr. John Ford
What Cmdr. Ford did was nothing short of sheer, unadulterated bravery. Few - if any - of the scenes in this film were staged. Much of it is actual combat footage filmed on the Midway Atoll.
The narration that might seem silly to many of us now was in response to a worried and nervous American people during those dark and dismal early months of the Pacific war.
Our navy won the battle, but at a terrible cost. Ford was so moved by the selfless sacrifice of the pilots and aircrew of Torpedo Squadron 8 he created a cinematic tribute to their heroism.
Subject: Emperor Tojo?
Amateur filmmakers presuming an aptitude in documentary film making, please read a teeny bit of history first so you know the difference between Japan's prime minister & her emperor
JCB, Pencaitland -
Subject: Time does it no favours
Sorry chaps, but I feel obliged to repeat the review I gave this after buying the DVD from Amazon. It has taken me quite a while to confirm that my stunningly poor purchase was indeed the same material to be held in such high esteem. I can only imagine that the names "John Ford" and "Henry Fonda" have blinded most observers to the inescapable ineptitude of this home movie. Of course, when I urged people not to buy this , I had no idea you could watch it for free - barely a bargain.
This is what you will find on Amazon:
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1.0 out of 5 stars
"Do not buy this!", 19 Jan 2008
By Colin Brown "JCB" (Pencaitland, Scotland) - See all my reviews
If you didn't know much about Midway before watching this, you won't be any the wiser afterwards. My initial disappointment at the running time of 20 minutes turned to relief once it started and it felt like a reprieve that it lasted only 18 minutes. This consists of a collection of footage shot on Midway Island at the time of the attack with a dreadful soundtrack and trite dialogue. It is purely propaganda and on those grounds alone it is moderately interesting.
If you have any friends who like to bore the pants off you with their holiday videos, invite them round and show them this.
Subject: Gret film
First, I applaud downwind... for his review and comments. There is a valid point to be made about viewing a film through the lens of the sensibilities prevailing at the time it was made/released. Otherwise, it is impossible to understand, much less judge, the quality of the film. Additionally, by doing this, one gains valuable insight into the past - for good or for ill.
With that said, some films simply do not age well in the sense that they lack the timelessness that makes them relatable to the present. As downwind... said, this film maintains that link to the present when one considers the situation of those fighting today in Afghanistan and Iraq and the loved ones they've left back home. Truly, such concepts are timeless and never irrelevant.
In sum, this film was well made by brave combat cameramen dodging real bombs and bullets. Once one has a grasp of the backstory (well stated by downwind..., i.e. the fear of Japanese invasion of the West Coast, the triumph of halting the enemy advance, etc.), the viewer can understand this film as the triumph that it was.
Subject: Consider this film in it's time and place before you judge it, youngster!
People writing about old films they don't understand would do well to inform themselves about the times and circumstances under which the films were produced.
While personally operating a hand-held 16mm camera for this film, its director, John Ford, a Commander in the Navy reserve serving on temporary duty at Midway Atoll at the time, risked enemy fire to get his footage and was wounded by shrapnel during the Japanese air attack. He received the Purple Heart for the wound, as all military wounded in action do, but later was awarded the Legion of Merit for his actions during the battle. It’s is the highest award given for non-combat performance, just so you'll know. John Ford was too busy shooting film and getting shot at to stage anything during the battle of Midway.
As for the narration, yes it can sound anachronistic and oddly funny these days—if you don’t understand why they are talking that way. Believe me, the Jane Darwell narration speaks for mothers and grandmothers then and now. Do you not have family or friends or neighbors who have a son or daughter serving in Afghanistan or Iraq? How do they feel about it? It’s pretty rough for them, I’m sure. If you don’t what that’s like, then just consider what it’s like to have the lives of your loved ones at risk. Then listen again to Jane Darwell’s narration in this film. I assure you, the angst of mothers and grandmothers with children in harm’s way has not changed one iota since World War II.
Consider too the mood of the nation when this film was made 65 years ago. My father was 22 then. He told me everyone in the country was expecting a Japanese invasion of California at any moment. There was great anxiety the United States could even defend itself to a draw, let alone win the war.
This battle changed all that in a few minutes’ time. It snapped, literally, Japan's ability to mount a large-scale air attack. The west coast was safe for the moment, the first time that could be said since the Pearl Harbor sneak attack of almost exactly six anxious months before. As it turned out, the Battle of Midway was the high water mark of Japan’s efforts in all of World War II, but that wasn’t known then. There were over three more years of fighting left.
The American people of that time only knew that Japan had been stopped at Midway, that its “run of the table” was over, and that the outnumbered and outgunned U.S. Navy had destroyed the very same Japanese aircraft carriers, Soryu, Hiryu, Akagi, and Kaga, that had brought the attack to Pearl Harbor. That's why the ending titles were drawn through with red paint, to suggest the bloody repayment of a debt. It released deeply held fear and anger about the war, and was tremendously liberating at the time, as well as deeply and spiritually rewarding. The concept of “whose side is God on?” was very much a part of those times, believe it or not.
Finally, for what its worth, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded this film the Oscar for Best Documentary, 1942. That in itself should tell you the mood of the country at the time, as strange and unfamiliar and odd as God-fearing patriotism seems to some people today.
Like all great art, John Ford's "Battle of Midway" is an indicator of the time and place from which it came, and mirrors the society that produced it.
Subject: President's Are Still Killing Us Off Today!
John Ford Is The Director!....The Producer Is The U.S. Government....AKA We The Taxpayer's!....P.S. Ford Was Known To Stage Sequences So Beware!
Christine Hennig -
Subject: I Remember Him When He Was a Young 'Un...
This battle film was obviously made for the home front, as a propaganda piece. Itâs in color, for one thing, which was unusual for the period. And it features the voice over of a little old lady, who comments on the soldiers periodically, mainly telling us how she remembered them as little boys. These sequences are pretty campy today. Other narration is kept to a minimum, so we can take in the striking images of death and destruction. You really get a feel in this film that the cameraman was in mortal danger. The ending is a great piece of propaganda, featuring title cards that tell battle statistics, which are then painted over by a hand wielding a huge paintbrush dripping with red paint. This film is quite fun to watch, and is so well made you might find yourself getting caught up in the fighting spirit after awhile.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.